Saturday, April 26, 2014 0 comments

Back in Time

Here I am again in the Wuchang train station.  I'm heading to Jingzhou for the weekend to visit old friends.  I'll stay with Rebecca (who I worked with my second semester at Yangtze University) and her husband Jon, and hopefully I will see a lot of my Chinese friends at the Sunday meeting. 

It always feels a bit like going back in time, going back somewhere I've lived before.  The same familiar decorative pond in front of the apartment building, the same hot noodle place, the same old walk through the park running along the outside of the ancient city walls.  I'm glad for some changes, though-I'll be there in only an hour and a half on the high-speed train; when I lived there in 2010 it was a four-hour bus ride, as the train station hadn't been built yet. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 0 comments

Week 8…

Well, as soon as I finish this week's classes, the semester will be half over (well, my semester. There's another week of classes that I am not scheduled for, and then exams...) It seems like I and everyone else over the age of twenty-five say it so often it's a cliche, but my, time is flying.  Every semester goes faster than the last. 

This week in my writing classes we started expository essays.  It really is nice teaching the same class for the second year; I did all the hard work last year and now I just have to adapt and edit the lessons.  I also like that I get the opportunity to make my lessons better, with the knowledge of what last year's students did and didn't get and what they found interesting. 

After a short introduction to expository writing, I brought up that there are several types of expository writing, and that we would take a closer look at some of them.  First up: cause and effect. 
Since I have a few hours between my two classes on Tuesdays, I usually stay in the classroom building and get some work done, away from some of the usual distractions at home. It's also much more efficient to plan out next week's lesson while this week's is fresh in my mind.  I am the opposite of ADD; I prefer to spend all day on one thing rather than split it up. 
Today, before I settled down to work in an empty classroom as I usually do, I went over to the Foreign Language Department building to visit the copy room to print some materials for later classes.  On my way back, I walked the long way around, along the Rapeseed fields.  The blooming season is already coming to an end; only a few straggling speckles of yellow are left of the solid sea of shocking...yellow...that made even the sun seem dull for the past few weeks.  I feel like I ought to use another word other than just yellow, but none of the alternatives--lemon, banana, gold--really fits; rapeseed could be the definition of yellow.  
Saturday, April 5, 2014 0 comments

Guanggu with Amy

I was flopped on the couch, thinking it would be a solitary and quiet Saturday night (not that I, as a confirmed introvert, mind those, at least sometimes...) when Amy called.  She wasn't doing anything either, and was a bit stir-crazy to get out.  Did I want to go out and get some dinner?  

We dithered back and forth politely for a bit about where to go--somewhere here on campus, over to the much wider selection at Zhang Fa, the campus-next-door, or did we really want to go out out?  Finally we got past the polite "What would you like to do?  Really, anything is okay with me..." stuff, and she admitted she really wanted to get off campus.  We ended up catching a taxi to Guanggu, which if you follow my blog you might remember is that huge square (digression: we need a better word than a "square" for a central open area surrounded by buildings that I think of as a piazza; many of them aren't square, but I can't think of a really appropriate word in English...this one is round.), surrounded by shopping malls and restaurants and a subway stop, that is the hub of activity in this part of the city.  

We meandered around the largest mall, Ocean City, considering our options for dinner.  We wound our way through a crowded, crazy maze of food stalls on the back side of the fourth floor; I had barely been aware that that area even existed.  We kept getting separated by the flow of people, mostly students, squeezing up and down the narrow aisles; the floor was a bit of a landmine of spilled drinks and dropped chopsticks.  Everyone was eating something-on-a-stick or slurping spicy noodles from paper bowls.  We had a snack--she an ice-cream cone (surprise, surprise; Amy is a bit of an icecream nut), and I a strawberry juice.  We decided that we'd prefer to actually sit down somewhere to a bit more substantial supper, though.  There was a Korean restaurant stuck back in the corner, though, that I might have to check out another time. 
There are several quite nice restaurants up on the fifth floor; several are favorites of mine and many of my American friends: Show Coffee and Tea, despite its name, is know for its western food (I think I got lasagna last time I was there), but is quite expensive; M Kitchen is a south Asian fusion place, with a really wonderful mix of Indian, Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese; the Korean Barbecue place (I've never bothered to actually learn the name of the place--the others have signs in English) has little grills built into the center of tables, on which you can cook all sorts of meats and vegetables, then dip them in the provided sauces and spices, and also has quite a few Korean dishes and soups, as well as, for some reason, quite a selection of sushi.  There are also a couple of more generic Chinese places on the other side, but I've never bothered with them as I can get great Chinese food anywhere, and they look expensive.  

Of course, on a Saturday night in the most popular shopping mall in the university district of a city of ten million, there was a bit of wait time.  We were dithering a bit about M-Kitchen or Korean Barbecue, so we took a number for both and decided we'd go to whichever came up first.  So, Korean Barbecue it was.  We didn't end up grilling anything; Amy wanted to try a cold noodle soup (I tried a few bites; it was good but I'm not sure I really get the appeal of cold soup) her friend had recommended; I ordered black pepper beef and rice (unimaginative, I know), and we ordered a plate of niangao to share.  I should have just ordered a whole plate of the niangao myself and not bothered with the rice; that's what I was really craving anyhow.  Niangao, often called rice cakes in English (not those crunchy things health nuts are always munching), is a thick, chewy noodle-like stuff; before I've often had thin oval-shaped slices in hot pot, but in Korean places they cut long rectangular pieces, looking a bit like string cheese.  Floating in spicy Korean tomato sauce, they are wonderful.  Although nearly impossible to eat with those slippery black plastic chopsticks they always seem to have at restaurants.  Even Amy gave it up and used a fork.  

After enjoying our Korean food, we poked around a few shops and stopped at Carrefour, the French wal-mart-like store, as I needed some peanut butter.  Before leaving, we stopped and stood at the rail, looking out over the courtyard where a big sale of knock-offs was going on, over the fantastic neon designs overlooking the five floor of brightly-lit shops, and over the sparkling high-rises behind, which have running lights blinking and dancing at the shopping mall below.  we did ponder a moment how the people in those buildings ever sleep at night with all those blinking lights outside, but mostly we just enjoyed the color and craziness for a minute.  Sometimes you just need some city lights.  
Friday, April 4, 2014 0 comments

Sunny Mornings

Sometimes it's the little things in life...I am not a morning person, and I'm usually still groggy and not in the best of moods when rushing down the stairs at 7:30 in the morning, trying not to be late for an 8:00 class.

But when I step out and the early morning sun is filtering through the trees and turning our ordinary little neighborhood golden, I'm grateful that I do have to be out early; left to my own devices I'd miss this most of the time.

And yes, that's a toilet there in front of my building.  Some neighbors are remodeling.  Even early-morning sunlight can't fix everything. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014 0 comments

Redeeming Spring

If you were to ask me what my favorite season is (although surely we could find something less inane to have a conversation about), spring would not come out on top.  I love the crunching leaves and crisp blue skies of fall, the lazy days and flip-flops of summer, and the smell of woodsmoke in the air and colorful scarves of winter.  But spring? I'm allergic to it. 

But just when I get dragged down by burnt-put student (and teachers) and stress over the next year's plans, I wipe my streaming eyes (I wasn't kidding about the allergies) and am reminded of the beauties of the season. All of these blooms are right here on campus; I took all of these pictures walking home after class.  Maybe spring has redeemed itself.